Home Health and Home Hospice are unique in that patient health infor­ma­tion (PHI) is often included in emails. This is somewhat under­stand­able since the nature of your work is in the field but HIPAA requires that hospi­tals take reason­able steps to protect against sharing of PHI. When sending these emails to staff, manage­ment should keep this issue in mind in order to lessen the chances of nurses uninten­tion­ally forwarding PHI to WSNA. 

Recently, a few emails sent to your WSNA Nurse Rep uninten­tion­ally contained PHI. The nurses were reaching out to WSNA, utilizing their right to contact the Union regarding issues within the Contract. The PHI was not included in the body of the nurses’ emails but was in an email further down the thread from managers or other nurses. In one case, neither the nurse nor the WSNA Rep knew the PHI was on the thread until it was brought to the nurses’ atten­tion by management.

In the future, we want HH & HO nurses to continue to feel comfort­able contacting your nurse rep by email. There­fore, we are suggesting that you follow these sugges­tions when doing so:

  • If you forward an email that contains one or more emails down the thread, read those emails to be sure there is no PHI within them; if there is: 
    • Redact the PHI before sending the email; or: 
    • Consider if that email is impor­tant, if not, don’t keep it in the thread.

The Employer has a LMS module regarding HIPAA, in addition to Policies regarding this subject.

In Solidarity!

Your Local Unit Officers:

Clarise Mahler: Acting Chair, CCU; hapilark@gmail.com

Jomay Ruiz: Secre­tary, FMC; ruiz.jomay@gmail.com

Debbie Pronk: Griev­ance Officer, PACU; dppbee@gmail.com

Linda Snyder: Member­ship Officer, OSN; lsnyder1@eastern.edu

Val Artamonova: Member­ship Officer, Hospice Home Care; valeriya.art@gmail.com

And: Terri Williams, MS, RN, WSNA Nurse Rep; twilliams@wsna.org